A new study has reported that hot peppers reduce breast cancer cell growth and increase cell death without affecting normal breast cells. The study was designed to investigate the relationship between the capsaicin content of peppers and the impact of pepper extracts on human breast and leukemia cancer cells. Reports are inconsistent concerning the anticancer activity of hot peppers and their primary biologically active component, capsaicin. The authors tested extracts from several different peppers in human breast and leukemia cancer cell lines in the laboratory.

The pepper extracts were found to significantly inhibit growth and induce apoptosis (a type of cell death initiated to rid the body of defective and other unwanted cells) in human breast cancer and leukemia cells. At the same time, the extracts had no significant effect on normal breast epithelial cells. Growth inhibition and induction of cell death were found to be proportionate to the capsaicin content of the peppers. In other words, the hotter the pepper, the greater the effect of its extract. In addition, the activity of the pepper extracts was found to be significantly inhibited by the hydroxyl radical scavenger thiourea, suggesting the involvement of free radicals in mediating the biological activity of the pepper extracts. The study results suggest a potential use of pepper extracts as anticancer agents, according to the authors.

Please see our article on how to optimize your breast cancer diet for information on what to eat during all stages of treatment and recovery.